State Rep. Jeff Berger, State Senator Joan Hartley and State Rep. Larry Butler at the Brownfields press conference in Waterbury City Hall.

                           Photographs By John Murray

   Brownfields are contaminated and often long-abandoned properties that can be remediated and turned into productive sites for economic development, open space or other public uses. Rep. Berger has been working to bring state and federal dollars to Waterbury as many properties lay contaminated and dormant due to its industrial history.

   State Rep. Jeff Berger announced at a press conference today that Waterbury was going to receive a $500,000 grant from the Regional Brownfield Development Grant Program to fund demolition deconstruction and remediation activities at 313 Mill Street, 777 and 835 South Main Street and 272 River Street.  A grant of $100,000 was also awarded in state funds for remediation at 44 Chapel Street in the Waterville section of Waterbury for phase 1, 2 and 3 studies.

   “I continue to maintain that brownfield remediation and development is the best jobs bill we as legislators can support.,” Rep. Berger said. “The continued work of the Commerce Committee and Brownfields Task Force has once again benefited economic growth, the tax base, and employment in the City of Waterbury. While we continue to make significant progress much work still remains. It continues to be my mission to advance that work.”

   It is expected that deconstruction and construction jobs will exceed 125 with an estimated 50 permanent new jobs as well as generating $800,000 in taxes annually. The project will have a significant positive impact on city finances with the possibility of reversing $3,800,000 in back taxes.

   The area is part of the Central City Brownfields Corridor designated by WDC to concentrate remediation activities because of the significantly poor demographics such as high unemployment, high poverty rates, tax delinquency and overall blight. Site funding for remediation and deconstruction leveraging Environmental Protection Agency funds and Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Initiative funds will total more than $900,000.00

   Attending the press conference were Berger, the House Chair of the Commerce Committee, Senator Joan Hartley,  Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary who was in his 11th hour on the job, State Rep. Larry Butler, House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, State Rep. David Aldarondo, and representatives from the Waterbury Development Corporation (WDC).

   House Speaker Donovan said, “Brownfield remediation is a win-win proposition — it creates jobs and removes blighted properties from communities by turning them into productive sites. These funds will make an important difference in Waterbury, and I commend Rep. Berger for his tireless advocacy of brownfield development.”

   Senator Hartley said, “Brownfields reclamation is a vital tool for economic growth in Waterbury and in other Connecticut cities, where untold acreage of suitable property, with readily accessible infrastructure, transportation links, and markets, lies idle. With this grant to underwrite proper remediation, this once productive property will be redeveloped and returned to local property tax rolls. This strategy also slows the all-too-common tendency in Connecticut to develop precious open space, which only adds to suburban sprawl and traffic congestion.” 

   Leo Frank, the CEO of WDC said, “The Waterbury Development Corporation has formed a partnership with our legislators, especially Representative Berger, DECD, EPA, EDA, The North West Regional Investment Board’s job funnel, The Chamber of Commerce and the City which has brought nearly $5 million dollars to Waterbury for assessments, abatements and demolition. This effort will ultimately put blighted properties back on the tax rolls and create jobs,”

Dr. William Pizzuto of UConn, right,makes a point while speaking with State Senator Joan Hartley and WDC executive director Leo Frank before the press conference began.

Berger, speaking, is affectionately known as “Jeff Brownfield” up at the state legislature, and Speaker of the House Donovan, second from the left, said Berger is the go-t0-guy about Brownfields. On the far left is new Waterbury mayor, Neil O’Leary, and on the right is Joan Hartley.